India’s flagship show Aero India 2023 is the latest battle space for superpower rivalry, as leading military powers and rivals US and Russia display their cutting-edge military wares where ‘stealth’ capability is the latest buzzword.
This game of superpower one-upmanship is continuing amid India’s ongoing indigenous effort to develop the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). On Sunday, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had strongly emphasised that AMCA “will happen”.
Besides the export-oriented ‘Checkmate’ a.k.a the Sukhoi-75 Light Tactical Fighter Jet Aircraft that is making its debut on Indian soil, the other Russian stealth platform is the Sukhoi Su-57E fifth-generation multifunctional fighter.
The sleek ‘Checkmate’ had first debuted at MAKS 2021, an international air show held at Russia’s Zhukovsky International Airport before being displayed at the Dubai Airshow in November 2021.
Russia is to roll out its first batch of ‘Checkmate’ three years from now, before the beginning of mass production in 2027. With an operating range of 3,000km, a speed of Mach 2.2 (more than twice the speed of sound), and an operating altitude of 54,000 feet.
During the MAKS event, Russian Deputy PM Yuri Borisov had said that the aircraft was aimed to meet Indian requirements, besides some African nations and Vietnam.
On the other hand, in a surprise development, the US announced that its latest fifth-generation fighters—the multirole F-35A Lightning II and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter—will be displayed at the air show after a long journey from their home bases in US.
The F-35 will give an aerial display of its powerful capabilities in the skies of Bengaluru’s Yelahanka air base.
The US embassy statement said: “The F-35’s engine produces 43,000 pounds of thrust and consists of a 3-stage fan, a 6-stage compressor, an annular combustor, a single stage high-pressure turbine, and a 2-stage low-pressure turbine.”
Major General Julian C. Cheater, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, said: “The F-35 represents the leading-edge of US fighter technology. Aero India is an ideal forum to showcase the most advanced, capable, lethal, and interoperable weapons systems the US has to offer. This system and others are designed to penetrate and defeat advanced adversary air defences.”
India-Russia military production collaboration has an old legacy. In 2007, the two countries had embarked on a joint fifth generation fighter project which was buried in 2018 due to cost issues.
India faces a severe shortage of modern fighter aircraft with the Indian Air Force currently operating only about 33 fighter squadrons against the requirement of at least 43 squadrons.